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I Stand Corrected, the Fish Rots From the Tail...

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In July last year I suggested that the claims made by Rebekah Brooks that she knew nothing of phone hacking under her tenure, if true, suggested she was at best a poor leader, and that if she was indeed neutral in shaping the culture under her at News International, we had to look further up the food chain for those culpable - recalling the old saying, a fish rots from the headhttp://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/alex-jaconelli/a-fish-rots-from-the-head_b_894606.html.

Seems I was wrong - Apparently there was a systematic deception that succeeded in duping Brooks, Murdoch junior and Murdoch senior. Don't look up, look down. Robert Jay QC, the enquiry's chief interrogator, used a style reminiscent of a certain raincoat wearing detective and in the best tradition of Columbo, just one thing. I could only believe this level of deception if another explanation previously put forward by News International by had held water, that of the rogue reporter.

Rogue actions are by definition against the prevailing culture, and usually kept secret by the protagonist for fear of the repercussions of being found out (think Nick Leason, rogue trader). But as we all know that explanation was skewered and it became known that the practice was widespread and long standing. So, it was part of the "ways of working" it would have been known, shared and talked about.

Not withstanding that at least one of the "powerful individuals" has stepped forward to deny the accusation (NOW's chief lawyer Tom Crone), we are left with an apology of the "if only I knew" type. In essence this apology provides the perfect combination of acknowledging the known facts as they currently stand, and avoiding the culpability for the hacking that took place.

This defence smacks of an appropriate construction, and in the absence of further evidence to the contrary may well stand. However given the long standing nature of the behaviour everyone agrees as unacceptable I stand by my initial observation. When you sit atop an organisation your behaviours shape the culture below you, people act in a way to please you since their future depends upon it. This can go wrong (the way patients are shuffled to massage NHS waiting lists being a prime example) but that doesn't excuse the person or people at the top.

What was the motivation to deceive Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch? In the same way that the PM hopes Jeremy Hunt survives as a buffer if nothing else, if he goes the scandal lands at the doorstep of the next person up. If Brooks and Murdoch junior are found to have known more than they are letting on, then the heat is greater on Murdoch senior.

For Murdoch to present himself, his son and Brooks as some kind of victims is the most egregious example of the people at the top (for which they are very well rewarded) ducking responsibility. I can actually believe Murdoch Senior knew nothing of this, but if the evidence finally points to his fellow "victims" being somewhat better informed, he will look somewhat less powerful and not the figure of the "hands on" proprietor we are invited to believe. When it is appropriate of course.